Writer’s Write, and Then They Write Again

crazy author
writer writing

By Patricia Zick @PCZick

Here I am with four books published on Kindle and in paperback through Createspace. I started this journey of Indie Author with the publication of Live from the Road in May 2012. It’s been sixteen months, and I’ve learned and suffered and fretted. I’ve also enjoyed being in control of my work. I still don’t have a formula for success, but I keep plodding along.

At the prodding of another fellow author and blogger, I decided it was time to check the figures on my books. All four books are enrolled in Amazon’s KDP Select program, which means every ninety days I’m given five days to offer one of the books for free. I decide what days and can split them up into different free days. The point of giving away the book is to get it into the hands of as many folks as possible, hoping for reviews and residual sales after the free event. The number of reviews on Amazon affects the sales or so the experts say. Also, with KDP Select, readers can “borrow” the book on their Kindle. Authors receive a percent of the KOLL fund for these borrowed books. The amount varies month to month. For instance, in June, five of my books were borrowed, and I received a payment of $11.19, in addition to my royalty for sold books.

I do know sales have dropped since last summer. I’m disappointed in my sales record for Trails in the Sand, my latest release. I’m pleasantly surprised with the success of Live from the Road, a book I published simply to test the Indie Author waters.

Embarking on the Indie route requires an outlay of money for editing services (an absolute must) and cover design (another must unless you’re a trained graphic designer). Fortunately, I have a background in formatting so I did my own work there, but some folks may have to pay for that service as well. I’ve kept my advertising budget low. The biggest expenditure I made was for a book tour ($120, plus a giveaway valued at $50) for Trails in the Sand, and it was a bust as far as sales. I might have picked up a few blog followers as a result, but there was no residual effect for book sales. Next time, I’ll organize the tour myself and find blogs better suited for my platform. I’ve paid $5 and $10 here and there for advertising my free days, and I believe that works well. One time I paid out $80 for advertising after the free days on the advice of one of the biggest Indie Author support groups, and I didn’t see any benefit in networking or sales.

For my one nonfiction book on Kindle, From Seed to Table, I didn’t pay for editing, but I did have proofreaders on the project. I paid for a cover, and I haven’t converted it to paperback, and probably won’t because it contains so many images.

Here’s the breakdown of estimated cost to produce and advertise each book, along with sales, borrowed, and free “sale” figures:

FinalWebSizeLive from the Road (May 2012 – August 22, 2013)

Cost to Produce – $530

Sold – 430

Borrowed – 53

Free – 26,009

Politics Florida-styleTortoise Stew – (July 2012 – August 22, 2013)

Cost to Produce – $130 (reprint)

Sold – 28

Borrowed – 1

Free – 677

3-D1webTrails in the Sand (December 2012 – August 22, 2013)

Cost to Produce – $1,030

Sold – 46

Borrowed – 0

Free – 3,499

S2T-5From Seed to Table (May 2013 – August 22, 2013)

Cost to Produce – $150

Sold – 43

Borrowed – 7

Free – 10,204

I’m still in the hole for three of the books, but Live from the Road has paid for itself and covered the cost of some of the other books as well. I’m getting reviews for all of the books, except Tortoise Stew (one did come in last week after the free days, so hopefully reviews will increase). In the beginning, I chased down reviewers for Live, but then became disillusioned with giving away books and never seeing a review in return. I’m up to forty-one reviews for that book – they keep coming in steadily even sixteen months after the book’s publication. So far, Trails in the Sand has garnered eighteen reviews. I hope the free days from this month will result in more.

I do know having the books available for sale is better than having them languish in a file cabinet. I’m constantly trying new things, but I don’t have any magical formula for you.

Right now, writing and selling books is my job. It’s a great luxury to have this time, but it’s not supporting anything quite yet.

I remain optimistic as I keep writing. It’s the best advice I can give anyone. When I get a bad or good review, I get back to writing. When I do get discouraged, I write. Usually by the end of the day, the cloud dissipates, and I’m back on the keyboard hacking happily away.

I’m definitely a writer in my heart, body, mind, and soul; therefore, I write.

I’d love to hear about your experiences or answer any questions you might have. It’s a whole new world out there for authors, and I’m content for now to be exploring the Indie Author gig.

14 responses to “Writer’s Write, and Then They Write Again”

  1. Thank you for sharing this information. It’s hard to really know what’s going on out there without talking to fellow authors. The only conclusion I can come to is that marketing our books is a long haul and we can’t give up.


  2. I think you’ve accomplished a lot in 16 months. Celebrate! The more you do, the better you’ll become, so this is a great “debut” (if you want to count 4 books as a debut, which I think you should). And thanks for the useful information. I haven’t tried the indie route yet, and it’s interesting for me to see the road not traveled.


    • I did the traditional route for my first three novels, and it was a nightmare for me between dealing with distribution, printing schedules, and book signings. Book signings are grueling events where an author sells a bit of the soul along with the parchment. But then I’ve always worked better independently. I’m very goal-oriented and keep on task (usually!), but I know that’s not for everyone. I consider this phase just another step on this writing journey. For a long time, I was adamant about not self-publishing, but time and unsatisfactory results can change a mind. It boggles my mind to think my books are in the hands of forty thousand readers. Even if only 5% actually read the books, that’s still a healthy number of readers.


  3. Hi Patricia. I found your link through triberr, which I naturally retweeted. Thank you for being so truthful and frank and for sharing your experiences of self publishing so far. I’m so pleased that it’s been a positive process for you. I’m particularly interested because it’s the route I’ve chosen. I’m a relatively new writer, having been going for about five years now, and my debut novel will hopefully be out next year. I’ve already found a good editing/critique service so that’s the next stage. Great post and very useful info. Thanks again for sharing.


    • Hi Suzy – Thanks for stopping by and for the retweet. I decided to share the numbers after a question from a fellow blogger. I thought about what I wanted to know, especially in the beginning and decided to share my experience. It was a good process for me, and I hope it helps others as well. I wish you well on your journey to publication. Let me know when you launch, and I’ll schedule you for Author Wednesday, if you’d like.


  4. Just now reading this post. Patricia, this is probably the most honest, best post on Indie Authors and costs/sales I’ve ever seen. Thank you for sharing. I think I’ve reviewed the books I’ve read. I’ll try to check tomorrow. I don’t know if I’ll ever break even on DL since I went through Abbott Press. WIP is definitely going to be cheaper to produce.


    • Marilyn, I’ve had some updates to this post. I ran Trails in the Sand for two free days and spent under $50 promoting it. I had 9,000 downloads and residual sales continue. It’s also bringing in reviews a few at a time. My Civil War Journal is doing well as are my other books. It’s about perseverance and it’s really true that having more books available is very helpful. Keep writing!


      • Cool! Trails in the Sand is one of those books – I have recommended it and have the ebook, but wish I had it in print. I’m glad it is selling. I’ll keep writing. 🙂


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